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7-Eleven brews up loyalty program offering free cup of coffee

In the “Every 7th Cup Free” coffee-rewards program, every time a customer buys any size cup of coffee, the cashier will scan the member’s bar code in the app, resulting in a coupon for a free medium coffee after six purchases. The merchant’s launch of its first-ever coffee loyalty program shows how major brands are underpinning their mobile strategies with loyalty as they work to build long-term relationships with consumers.

“A stop at a 7-Eleven store is part of millions of customers’ daily lives,” said Chad Gaither, 7-Eleven’s senior director of concentrated market rollout and insights. “We want to give customers lots of reasons to shop with us.

“Not only are we convenient and provide high-quality products and services and a good value, but we want mobile app users to recognize that we are catering to their needs and wants,” he said.

Star icon
In the program, the participant texts “BREW” to 711711, then clicks on a dollar icon at the top of the app’s home screen to go to the coupon page, where his personal bar code and digital coffee punch card reside. After the cashier scans the bar code, the customer’s digital rewards card is punched automatically.

Each punch shows up as a star icon in the app. After the sixth star is awarded, a coupon for a free medium coffee appears in the app. The punch card process starts over once the free coffee coupon is redeemed.

The retailer’s mobile app is available for download in Google Play and the App Store.

The Dallas-based chain is supporting the coffee rewards promotion with social media, paid digital media, plus television and radio advertising in select markets.

Last week, 7-Eleven said it would expand its use of Belly’s mobile loyalty program to more than 2,000 locations throughout the United States and Canada following a successful trial of the program.

Customers can use Belly’s program to earn points and redeem rewards at 7-Eleven locations in the Northeastern U.S., along with parts of Austin, Los Angeles, Chicago and Vancouver.

The programs differ in that the coffee loyalty program is proprietary to 7-Eleven and all its participating U.S. stores.

“7-Eleven participates as one of many retailers in Chicago-based Belly’s loyalty program,” Mr. Gaither said. “It participates with Belly in a small number of stores, but are expanding the participation.”

The coffee program’s launch coincides with participating 7-Eleven stores offering small-size coffee for 50 cents from Sept. 3 through Sept. 14 to celebrate 7-Eleven’s 50-year tradition of selling coffee to go.

A 7-Eleven franchisee began selling coffee by the cup in his Long Island, NY, store in 1964.

Today, 7-Eleven sells more than a million cups each day and ranks fourth in fresh-brewed coffee sales in the U.S., it said. It was the first U.S. convenience chain to sell coffee to go, it said.

The chain also is bringing back Pumpkin Spice Coffee, along with a Pumpkin Spice Latte, International Delight creamer and syrup.

About 18 months ago, 7-Eleven started looking at ways to increase customer visits, bring new guests to its stores and increase frequency of visits while also increasing the amount of items customers were buying.

In 2012, it leveraged its SMS database to drive holiday-season consumers in-store with a time-sensitive campaign. It sent an SMS message to its opted-in users to promote its peppermint bark doughnut.

SMS marketing
The retailer used the 2012 U.S. presidential election to spark interest in a new Slurpee flavor and build the company’s SMS database. The brand also has used an interactive Pandora campaign, including rewards and sweepstakes, to drive users to try new Slurp on a QR code initiative around college basketball’s March Madness.

“This coffee loyalty program is available only by using the 7-Eleven mobile app,” Mr. Gaither said. “Many customers, especially millennials, integrate the use of mobile apps into their busy, daily lives.

“Since 7-Eleven started providing many offers through its app last year, we have seen a resounding response from users,” he said. “Our mobile app users tell us they want and appreciate these kinds of offers.”

Final Take
Michael Barris is staff reporter on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York